Ant What it Used to Be

first_imgA new species of subterranean ant discovered in Brazil is so weird, biologists have classified it as the sole representative of a new subfamily.  The alien creature has been whimsically named Martialis heureka: “the ant from Mars.”  An article about it in Nature News said, “It adds a new branch to the ant family tree which split off from the others extremely early in the family’s evolution.”  Trouble is, it doesn’t look anything like a wasp, from which ants supposedly evolved (see picture on National Geographic).    This has thrown ideas of ant evolution into a bit of a quandary.  Christian Rabeling, the discoverer, found that this ant did not fit into the existing taxonomy.  Scientists are calling this a relict species of a sister family they have named Martialis.  The original paper in PNAS says, “On the basis of morphological and phylogenetic evidence we suggest that these specialized subterranean predators are the sole surviving representatives of a highly divergent lineage that arose near the dawn of ant diversification and have persisted in ecologically stable environments like tropical soils over great spans of time.”  That makes it essentially a living fossil.  “Like the duck-billed platypus is to mammals,” explained Nature News, “it’s clearly a cousin to other ants, yet a weird and ancestral version that took its own evolutionary direction early on.”  This must be what the title of the paper means when it says the discovery “sheds light on early ant evolution.”    A look inside the paper, though, reveals a few problems with the confident assertions about evolution:A robust phylogeny is indispensable for elucidating the evolutionary origin of ants and for exploring the selective forces that have produced their extraordinary specializations.  Previously published studies, however, led to contradicting views of early ant evolution, in part because of high levels of morphological convergence, the secondary loss of characters, and a lack of informative paleontological data.  As a result, numerous taxa have been proposed as the most basal lineage.Recent attempts to find a robust phylogeny have now been dealt another challenge with the discovery of M. heureka.  Their phylogenetic tree shows it on its own branch, all by itself.  Another problem is revealed deep in the paper: “Second, the basal ant lineages seem to have originated in a relatively short period, potentially making the unambiguous resolution of their relationships quite difficult and sensitive to methodological error.”  The only suggestion of light being shed on ant evolution by this discovery is that it turns their attention away from the idea ants evolved from wasps.  What they expected, and what they found, were pointing in opposite ways:Our phylogenetic analyses, combined with the inferred biology of M.  heureka, suggest that the most basal extant ant lineages are cryptic, hypogaeic foragers, rather than wasp-like, epigaeic foragers (Fig. 3).  This finding is congruent with recent molecular studies, which previously suggested the Leptanillinae, another subfamily of subterranean predators, to be sister lineage to all extant ants.  This result has puzzled ant systematists for two reasons.  First, Wilson et al.’s classic study of the Mesozoic amber ant Sphecomyrma postulated that the ancestral ant was a large-eyed, wasp-like, ground forager, creating a strong expectation that the most basal extant ant lineages would also be epigaeic foragers, presumably similar to Sphecomyrma.  Second, the Leptanillinae [blind foragers in Africa] share common morphological and behavioral characteristics with the Amblyoponinae, implying the monophyly of this group.  In contrast, our results and recent molecular systematic studies suggest that blind, subterranean, specialized predators, like Martialis, the Leptanillinae, and some poneroids, evolved early during ant diversification.  We hypothesize, that once these hypogaeic predators adapted to their specialized subterranean environment, their morphology and biology changed little over evolutionary time because their hypogaeic habitat has likely been ecologically stable and provided a refuge from competition with other, more recently evolved, ants.  It is important to note that no definitive statement about the morphology and life history of the ancestral, Mesozoic ant can be derived from our current knowledge about the surviving basalmost ant lineages, because the relative probabilities of evolutionary transitions between epigaeic and hypogaeic habits are uncertain.They explained that the supposition that ants evolved from wasps relies on ambiguous data subject to alternative hypotheses.  One other problem with their suggestion that ants evolved from wasps is that Martialis would make the ant hypogaeic [underground] foraging evolve three times.  That’s why they are suggesting the basal ant was already a hypogaeic forager.  “The exact nature of the ancestral ant remains uncertain,” though, “given that the propensity for repeated evolution of a hypogaeic lifestyle may be higher than for reevolution of an epigaeic lifestyle.”    In short, no clear light seems to have been shed on ant evolution by this discovery.  It was a complete surprise.  What other surprises lie in store?  “This discovery hints at a wealth of species, possibly of great evolutionary importance, still hidden in the soils of the remaining rainforests.”    Stefan Cover, a curatorial assistant at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, had a more humble view.  In the Nature News article, he said that Martialis “jars us out of going with our familiar conceptions… This is a lesson that we could probably import into studies of other groups.”1.  Rabeling, Brown and Verhaugh, “Newly discovered sister lineage sheds light on early ant evolution,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published online before print September 15, 2008, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0806187105.We can suggest some other studies of other groups where evolutionists could import this lesson: how about the Monera, Protista, Fungi, Plantae and Animalia? (the five kingdoms of taxonomy).    The discoverers put their weird little ant in a jar, but maybe the scientists need to be put in one, because Martialis “jars us out of going with our familiar conceptions,” Cover said.  While they’re safely in a jar out of harm’s way (unable to harm us, that is), let’s hunt for more rainforest species with great evolutionary importance.  Jarring evolutionists is fun.  Every new discovery jars them into realizing their neat little schemes are wrong.  They’re like blind hypogaeic foragers, digging around in their own dirt, thinking every new surprise is shedding light on evolution.    That phrase – “Shed[ding] light on evolution” – yields thousands of hits on Google.  We’ve examined dozens of those claims right here.  Can you remember one that has turned up a single photon?  The truth is they are walking in a darkness of their own making.  The light they need to see is the flashing red stop light next to the “Wrong Way” sign they missed back in 1859.(Visited 14 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Blitzbokke fourth in Gold Coast Sevens

first_img14 October 2013The Springbok Sevens team finished fourth at the Gold Coast Sevens on the weekend as an extra-time, energy-sapping semi-final loss to the hosts hurt their chances of finishing third, as well as Australia’s chances of victory in the Cup final.It took two periods of extra time before the Aussies won, and that proved too much for South Africa to overcome in the third place match after they had earlier lost captain Kyle Brown to a concussion in a quarterfinal win over Wales.Australia were boosted by their win over South Africa and raced into a 12-0 lead over New Zealand in the title-decider, but the exertions of their semi-final win came back to haunt them as the Kiwis ran out 40-19 winners to lift the Cup.It was a first World Series tournament in charge for coach Neil Powell and there was plenty for him to be happy about.ExcelledThe Blitzbokke excelled on day one of the two-day event, defeating France 29- 5, Spain 38-7 and England 22-14. On day two South Africa then beat Wales 28-21 in the quarterfinals and England tested New Zealand before going down 14-5 to set up the playoff for third place.With South Africa’s energy reserves having been depleted in the semi-finals, which included two stints with players in the sin bin, England ran out 47-0 victors to finish third.Commenting on his team’s performances afterwards, coach Powell said: “The guys all showed a willingness to implement the minor tweaks we spoke about before each game. I also think they showed a lot of courage and commitment, especially against Wales and Australia.”DubaiThe next round of the HSBC Sevens World Series takes place on 29 and 30 November in Dubai. South Africa was drawn in Group D for the tournament with Samoa, Argentina and Russia.In Dubai in 2012, South Africa failed to advance to the Cup competition after a shock 10-12 loss to Portugal in pool play. The Blitzbokke went on to finish as runners-up in the plate (10th place) after a 10-14 defeat to Argentina. They’ll be looking for a much better performance than that this time around.Port ElizabethA week after the Dubai Sevens, on the weekend of 7 and 8 December, the third round of the nine-stop series, the Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens, will be played in Port Elizabeth.After a narrow loss to New Zealand in the semi-finals in Port Elizabeth last year, South Africa crushed Argentina 35-0 to finish third.Only once previously have the Blitzbokke claimed a World Series victory on home soil. That came in George in 2008 and followed a win in Dubai a week earlier. South Africa went on to be crowned the overall World Series winners.TicketsTickets are on sale for the event and are available from all Computicket, Shoprite and Checkers outlets.They may also be bought online through Computicket.last_img read more

Praise for South Africa’s hosting of Chan

first_img6 February 2014 The Confederation of African Football has commended South Africa for its hosting of the third edition of the African Nations Championship (Chan), the CEO of the local organising committee, Mvuzo Mbebe, said on Wednesday. “We could not have asked for a better outcome than what this third edition of Chan has delivered for the continent and the world at large,” Mbebe said in a statement. “We are also quite pleased to have been the country to present the platform for Chan to leave a lasting legacy, with Fifa granting it A-status, as well as the tournament setting a new benchmark for highest stadium attendance.” Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Polokwane hosted Chan matches, with Libya emerging as the champions on 1 February after defeating Ghana 4-3 on penalties at Cape Town Stadium. “When we took on the responsibility to host Chan, after the success of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), we knew that we had a daunting task ahead of us, compounded by the fact that this is a young tournament,” Mbebe said. “We spent more time educating and creating awareness through the country about what Chan was really about and how different it was from Afcon before we could even drive football lovers to go buy tickets for the tournament.” The tournament, which featured African national teams made up of players plying their trade in their home countries, drew 227 258 spectators, with 1 117 volunteers and 1 138 security and disaster management personnel deployed to ensure its success. For the opening and closing ceremonies alone, Mbebe said, Chan created jobs for 185 technicians, stage hands, runners, costume designers, props producers, make-up artists and creatives. About 300 performers from local communities, including Khayelitsha, Gugulethu and Mitchells Plain, were employed, while local resources and infrastructure were also used. Source: SANews.gov.zalast_img read more

SA improves on mining investment attractiveness index

first_img5 March 2014 South Africa moved up 14 places to 53th out of 112 jurisdictions surveyed in the latest Fraser Institute ranking of the world’s most attractive regions for mining investment. The Canada-based think-tank’s 2013/14 Survey of Mining Companies, released on Monday, is based on the opinions of mining executives representing 690 mineral exploration and development companies on the investment climate of 112 jurisdictions around the world. The companies participating in the survey reported exploration spending of US$4.6-billion in 2012 and $3.4-billion in 2013. In the previous survey, for 2012/13, South Africa was ranked 67th out of 79 jurisdictions in the survey’s overall Investment Attractiveness Index. South Africa’s rise to 53rd in the latest rankings was accompanied by an improvement in its score from 47.8 to 54.7 out of a possible 100, and put the country at seventh-best for mining investment attractiveness in Africa, after Botswana (24th), Ghana (33rd), Namibia (34th), Zambia (41st), Eritrea (48th) and Burkina Faso (49th). Topping the Fraser Institute’s rankings for 2013/14 is Western Australia, followed by the US state of Nevada, Canadian province Newfoundland and Labrador, Finland and Alaska. The institute’s Investment Attractiveness Index is constructed by combining two other indices, a Policy Perception Index which measures the effects of government policy on mining companies’ attitudes toward exploration investment, and a Best Practices Mineral Potential Index which rates regions based on their geological attractiveness. On the Policy Perception Index, South Africa improved its score from 35.0 to 39.8 out of a possible 100, while remaining at 64th place in the rankings – although the number of jurisdictions surveyed had grown from 96 to 112. According to a report in Business Day on Tuesday, South Africa “picked up points in investor perceptions of its current regulations, its legal system, tax and infrastructure. But investors were less complimentary about its environmental regulations, regulatory efficiency and labour regulations. On labour regulations, it ranked fourth from the bottom – only two places above Venezuela.” On the Mineral Potential Index, South Africa climbed 13 places from 50th out of 96 jurisdictions to 37 out of 112 jurisdictions, making it the fifth most geologically attractive African country after the Democratic Republic of Congo (26th), Zambia (28th), Botswana (30th) and Ghana (32nd). SAinfo reporterlast_img read more

J&K women welcome stamp duty exemption for buying property

first_imgWomen in Jammu and Kashmir have welcomed the decision by the State government to approve zero percent stamp duty on the purchase of property by them.“It’s a welcome step. The move will help women scale up the social ladder in J&K,” said Nazia Ashraf, a businesswoman.The Cabinet on Friday approved to levy a stamp duty of 5% for buyers in urban areas and 3% in rural areas. “However, it is zero percent if the property in both urban as well as rural areas is registered in the name of a female member of the family,” reads the Cabinet decision, approved by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Friday evening.Earlier, the stamp duty was at seven percent.Ms. Mufti claimed women in J&K, as of now, owned bare minimum immovable assets even after contributing the maximum to the society. “This incentive will encourage families to register their properties in the name of their sisters, daughters, wives and mothers,” said Ms. Mufti.Former finance minister and MLA Rajpora Hasseb Drabu described the government move as a creative way of empowerment by market incentives. “It will help gender balancing of social power relations,” said Mr. Drabu.According to the 2011 census, there are 859 females per 1000 males in J&K and female literacy rate stands at 58.01 percent.last_img read more